FCYU117 cover image See all stories from issue #117, Summer 2014

Congratulations Winners! #120
How have you processed something painful in a way that lets you move forward?
Writing Contest Winners

Note: The entries to this contest question were particularly strong and detailed. It was hard to pick three; the Honorable Mention essays were also excellent. We encourage all the applicants to enter the contest again or write a Staff Shout-Out.

1st Prize $150 winner + $200 “wish certificate” from One Simple Wish
Forgiveness and Distance

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Beer bottles breaking, screaming and yelling, babies crying—these were the sounds of my childhood. My mother had depression and bipolar disorder and was an abusive alcoholic, and my father was a drug dealer who got deported back to Brazil. My mom loved me the best she could, but her disease got the best of her. When I was 1, my mom allowed me to go outside with no clothes on in a blizzard because she wanted some peace and quiet so she could drink. Because of this and similar incidents, she lost custody of me.

When I was 5, I got adopted. At first I was so happy. My new “mom” Denise gave me all the toys and games I wanted for Christmas and my birthday. I wanted a mom and I wanted to be loved, so I trusted and attached easily.

But soon I realized things weren’t right. Denise took me places in the car and threatened to leave me and drove off. She yelled and called me names.

At the age of 12 I was sent to crisis because I reported suicidal thoughts and began cutting. I went to many psychiatric hospitals. I believe that Denise’s boyfriend molested me; I am unsure because I was under the influence of drugs that night. The next year, I watched Denise’s father die of brain cancer. I was devastated. I considered him my grandfather; he was a great man. Soon after that, I ran away for the first time.

I stood near a local bus stop and four men whistled. I walked over, thinking, “Someone is actually paying attention to me.” I told them I was 14, but they said they didn’t believe me. They took me to eat at their friend’s restaurant, and then one of the men asked me to have sex with him. I said yes; soon after the three other men joined in a circle and passed me along. I said “stop” but they wouldn’t stop.

I got scared and called Denise. I told her I was fine and I’d be returning soon. When I got back she was so mad she beat me. I ran away on a few occasions afterwards, and I prostituted myself. Again I was hospitalized, but this time I was sent to a group home after I was released. I kept using drugs and got moved to a new group home.

In October 2012, I decided to turn my life around. It took me six months to get past denial, and I have relapsed many times since. I’m in recovery from bulimia, drugs, self-harm (including prostitution), depression, and anxiety. The main lesson I have learned is that you can relapse, but you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep going.

Forgiveness is the only way to move forward and first you must forgive yourself. The pain others cause you is not your fault. I haven’t reconnected or reformed or replaced my family. I just added and re-created. In my most recent program, I made a very special connection with one of the other girls. She became like a mother: She protected me, and loved me and never turned her back on me.

I am 16 and have been away from Denise and in programs for almost two years now. I have family therapy with her and my ultimate goal is to go into independent living when I turn 18 and cut ties with her. I’ve learned in my programs that I need to focus on myself and distance myself from those who are not going to benefit me.

F.O., 16
Glassboro, NJ

2nd Prize $100 winner + $100 “wish certificate” from One Simple Wish
Voice How I Feel

As far back as I can remember my father was following through with the steps asked of him by Children’s Services. He achieved supervised visits with me, and at the end of every visit he would whisper, “Honey, this will all work out. I’m going to get you back home. Just stay strong. I love you.” He convinced me he wasn’t going to give up. So when he gave up his rights, I felt completely blindsided. I kept thinking, “What did I do to make my father not want me?”

So my siblings and I lived with my mother. Her mental illness meant she didn’t understand how to discipline a child or how to provide the necessities of life. She believed it was OK to inflict injury as a punishment.

My youngest brother looked to me as his angel of protection. One morning, my mother awoke in a bad mood. In moments like these, she would search for someone to take the responsibility for her not feeling what she hoped to feel. She dragged my brother into the bathroom. Terrified, he cried for help. I rushed to protect him, but a locked door stood between us. I could only sit there and listen to every painful strike my mother laid on him, followed by his screeches and pleas for her to stop. When it was over, my mother was relaxed. It was unbearable to look at someone so mentally ill. The guilt I felt for not being able to stop what my mother did to all three of us made me grow up real fast.

The third painful experience was my two-month stay in a psychiatric hospital. I had become very depressed and thought the only escape was to end my life. At times, I would be so out of control the staff would give me an injection to sedate me. I would be put on a restraint bed with my ankles and wrists tied down until my rage de-escalated.

At the hospital I was taught several healthy ways to cope with the anger caused by my pain. My number one skill to keep me positive and moving forward is to voice how I feel, whether it’s through my actual voice or putting it to paper. The emotion must be let out in a safe way, and not everyone can cope or move forward the same way. It’s important to find the skill most helpful for you to keep moving forward while letting go at the same time. Keep believing in yourself.

Amanda H., 20
Lewiston, ME

3rd Prize $50 winner + $50 “wish certificate” from One Simple Wish
Let Someone Help You Heal

Most 10-year-olds play with Barbie dolls and go to the park with their mother and father. But when I was 10, my mother made me prostitute with her to pay for food and drugs. I would ask myself, “Why would you want your little daughter doing grown things that can harm her? Did she love me?” When I would stick up for myself and tell her what she was doing was wrong, she beat me with a video cord or a wand off the blinds. I would scream and ask, “Why are you doing this to me?” She would say because “You’re a stupid-a-- little girl that don’t listen to nobody.”

I ran away and slept on the train for a couple of days with no food or water. The police woke me and started asking questions. Then Children’s Services took me to a safe place where there was food, water, and fresh clothing. I landed in a foster home for about three years. I did well there for the first year; then I fell apart because I wasn’t used to the things that I was asked by my foster mother. She wanted to teach me to do the right thing and said things like, “No stealing because there’s always food in the house,” and “Don’t be ashamed to ask for anything because we are more likely to say yes than to say no.”
But for an 11-year-old used to stealing food and doing adult things to provide for the family, it wasn’t always easy to follow directions or be respectful.

As I get older, I realize that you can’t let something keep hunting you down if it is no longer happening to you. It’s over as long as you let it be over and let in someone you trust who can help you heal. You’re not going to change within 24 hours. It’s a slow process, like a house that takes time to build. And I’m still building.

I have an older, positive sister who wants the best thing for me and wants to work as a team. She understands since she has been though this too. She reminds me that if I do things to hurt myself, like fighting and AWOLing, it will be harder to have a good future. And I want her to be a big part of my future. Being back in touch with my sister gives me something to look forward to. When she turns 18, next year, she will try and get custody of me, and that’s worth working on.

D.W., 13
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Honorable Mentions: Crystal Augustin, Cristal Carrasco, Marlene Garza, Andrei Williams Hanna, Tannya Naula, Marcellus Sawyer, Shaquille Williams.

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